As we approach the last two months of the year, schedules become full as holiday time eats into available office hours and patients rush to utilize their year-end benefits. So how can you keep patients who may be less ‘patient’ happy while managing a limited schedule?
Know what patients find frustrating
It is frustrating to patients when an appointment experience is not what was expected. Having to make decisions they were not prepared for, experiencing problems they didn’t expect, or not leaving with an outcome they assumed increases patient stress and reduces their perception of your endodontic practice. And not being able to offer attractive appointment options because of a full schedule only increases their dissatisfaction.
“The more your patients clearly understand what to expect from their appointment and prepare for it the better chance they have of having a good experience.”
Reduce their frustration and help them prepare
Prepare your patients for their potential costs ahead of time. Even without a formal treatment plan, it’s possible to give patients a sense of what costs they may be facing in many cases. You can do this by quoting your patients a range of costs, or quote them a consultative cost plus a high side feel for what similar treatments have cost others if the treatment can be completed the same day.
If your schedule allows for same day treatment, ask them if they want it instead of assuming it. Some patients may have anxiety and not wish same day treatment. Others may want same day treatment but want to know beforehand in order to psychologically prepare.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for same day treatment, tell them beforehand.
For those patients wanting treatment as fast as possible, emphasize that completing new patient paperwork before appointment time is crucial for prompt appointments and increases the chance of same-day treatment.
Ask your referring practices to include the patient’s insurance policy information in the notes section of the referral form upon submission. Patients often struggle to obtain and relay their insurance information and most general dentist offices already have this information. Emphasize to your referring practices that your priority is to treat their patient as soon as possible and providing as much patient information as possible helps you do that.
Clarity and preparation make the difference with patients
Nobody likes surprises. The more your patients clearly understand what to expect from their appointment and prepare for it the better chance they have of having a good experience. Start by utilizing these simple tips and survive the holiday rush successfully!
Every quarter it’s time to treat our referring offices to a care package to thank them for referring patients.
But before falling prey to the same old marketing habits, perhaps we should ask ourselves how much impact giving donuts or cookies with a quick ‘thank you’ really makes to our referrers:
•Is it of meaningful, memorable value to them?
•Does it help you stand out?
•Does it increase their confidence in your skills or patient care?
•Does it help them feel heard, that you are always looking to improve the service you provide them and that they matter?
A thank you is always good, but if it doesn’t accompany anything of meaningful substance or value, is it really making an impact on them and influencing their referring decision?
We performed a brief survey to find out how referring general dentist offices feel about quarterly care packages. The results may surprise you.
We asked both general dentists and their administrative staff what they find most influential in their referring decision to an endodontic practice and endodontist. Care packages? CE courses? Personal visits from a specialist? Biannual parties?
General Dentists emphasized prompt referral follow-up reporting as having the most direct influence on their referral decision. They also indicated that specialists who provided thought leadership and educational opportunities through CE courses strongly stood out to them.
Administrative staff noted ease and efficiency in the referral process — having an easy, secure way to get information to specialists, being kept informed of progress of specialist care, and receiving prompt, proactive follow-up reporting — strongly influenced which specialist they prefer working with. They also indicated meeting a specialist office’s team in-person helped them build close, trusting, and long-term relationships between offices.
Your referrers are the source of your patients, the source of your business. Instead of mindlessly following the latest marketing lore, consider doing things that can bring them meaningful value and help your office really stand out.
When visiting your referrers ask questions. “How can we make your referral process easier?” “How can we improve the care we provide your patients?” “How can we make it easier and more efficient for you?” Listen carefully to their responses, take note, then extend a personal email or phone number and take action to follow-up on their requests.When we asked general dentist offices what most specialists did when visiting, every participant answered “They gave us a care package, said thank you for referring patients, and left” and nothing else. Asking questions can help you gain valuable insights into how you can better serve your referrers, tells them powerfully that they matter to you, and can help your office dramatically stand out.
You, the doctor, visit personally, and bring key members of your team along if you can. An appearance by the doctor strongly tells the referrer they matter. And even if the visit ends up being short, seeing you and your team in person helps the general dentist staff associate smiling faces and warmth with your office and establish stronger ties.
Consider hosting a CE course by inviting a dental market professional to speak. Introduce your office and staff in the first part of the presentation, educating them on the latest technology and techniques you offer patients.
These simple ideas can make your marketing investments more impactful and increase your return. It’s not the ‘donuts’ that deliver the impact. It’s the substance that you provide when making the delivery.
Keeping your production schedule full is difficult, and every hour unfilled is lost time. Lost Revenue. Treatments planned during consultation but never completed not only reduce successful patient outcomes but are also lost production opportunities for your endodontic practice. Increasing your patient acceptance ratio, the percentage of planned treatments that are actually completed, not only improves your patient outcomes but are also opportunities for keeping your production schedule more full — and your endodontic practice more prosperous.
So why do patients not complete some treatments that have been planned?
Sometimes it is because the patient doesn’t perceive urgency, either because of a lack of understanding of the condition or lack of symptoms. Another common reason is unfamiliarity with the treatment process, especially for patients with dental anxiety. Patient concern over the cost of the treatment and how to pay for it is also a prevalent reason for avoidance and delay.
So what more can you do?
Most patients don’t work in the dental profession. Be conscious of the language you use when counseling patients. Use analogies patients can relate to. Support and encourage your staff to make time spent with patients a priority. Cultivate a practice-wide attitude of patient respect and emotional care, speaking plainly without technical jargon to avoid patient sensitivity to being treated condescendingly. Encourage your staff to take the necessary time and use creativity when working through patient financial concerns, helping them envision the healthy future that will result from their investment.
It’s important to understand your staff is an extension of you. Develop their skills in alleviating patient concerns and helping patients imagine healthy, successful outcomes. Train them to be knowledgeable in treatment procedures, risks, side effects, and the reasons they are important for the patient’s health so they can support your diagnosis and urgency for treatment. Your staff must be able to clearly and accurately describe treatment in a calming and caring tone that emphasizes positive patient outcomes. Cohesive knowledge among staff members creates a comfortable and confident environment for patients to receive care, and increases staff poise and morale.
Then follow up with patients. Proactively reaching out to patients with treatments planned but not completed helps the patient understand the importance of the treatments and that your practice cares. It tells them that your endodontic practice is reliable and professional, increasing confidence in the care you provide.
Use gaps in your schedule as an opportunity to follow up with patients with unscheduled planned treatments. Tell your patients you care and invite them to come in during appropriate schedule gaps.
Every empty hour on your schedule that’s filled with unscheduled patient treatments is another hour of more patient care. Better patient outcomes. More production to help your endodontic practice thrive.
Treatments planned during consultation but never completed not only reduce successful patient outcomes but are also lost production opportunities for your endodontic practice. DentalEMR.com
First impressions are important and having a great front office staff can make or break an endodontic practice. Yet are you doing all you can to help your front office staff thrive?
By taking time to listen to your staff and taming mundane tasks, you can turn your front office staff into customer care rockstars and ultimately help your practice grow.
Take Time to Listen
The first step to turning your front office staff into rockstars is to take the time to listen to their concerns, frustrations, and successes on a regular basis.
As the people who interact with your systems, referrers, and patients most closely on a daily basis, your front office staff best know what is going well with your office and things that could be improved. As a result, they are the perfect resource to let you know how your practice is really going. While it’s easy to get defensive when told that things aren’t going exactly right, shutting down open communication will ultimately hurt staff morale and thwart your practice’s growth.
In contrast, setting aside time each week to allow for an open discussion will keep the ideas flowing and help staff feel like their contribution truly matters. In addition, having these open conversations will identify the pain points that are holding your practice — and great customer service — back.
Identify Pain Points…And Do Something About It
There is nothing more demotivating then when the mundane tasks start piling up, impacting your ability to interact with patients and effectively do your job. Yet all too often, the first symptoms of pain points in your office management appear when something goes wrong and staff performance takes a negative turn.
This can often come out unintentionally in stressed-out staff as less than stellar customer service to patients and referrers.
Yet while it may be easier to chalk it up to just a staffer’s bad mood or an unusually hard day, in reality, who can blame them when they occasionally are a little short given the juggling act that each front office staffer is tasked with each day.
The front office serves as the nerve center of an entire endodontic practice. At one moment, the front office could be on the phone dealing with an upset patient, making certain all the pre-appointment paperwork is done for another, all while another phone line rings and a general dentist is calling about a referral or needs information right now.
Now, add in a trying patient standing at their desk wondering why it is taking so long to be seen and a subpar appointment software that requires one too many user clicks on their desktop computer to get anything done and you have a virtual recipe for a daily disaster and frayed nerves.
While making sure that your front office staff has good customer service training to help better deal with these tense moments when they occur is no doubt also key, by identifying your practice’s pain points — the things that are not working in your office and creating repeated staff stress — you can create a work environment that allows front office staff to put your patients first.
Taming the Mundane
First of all, it is important to recognize that no matter what, there are times when the front office will remain hectic.
As long as you have patients in your lobby, some are bound to get impatient when waiting for care. As long as you have an office phone, there is bound to be times when everyone seems intent on calling at once.
Yet, by taming the mundane tasks of the front office by putting more efficient, endodontic-specific management systems in place, front office workers will have more time to deal with these moments of stress and focus on handling patients’ needs.
The key is finding a front office management system that minimizes mundane work and ultimately works for them.
Improving Patient Intake and Referral Flow
There are a number of ways an integrated office management system will ultimately improve your office’s workflow and free up staff’s time.
To reduce patient stress on appointment day, consider implementing a system that allows new and existing patients to access forms electronically before they arrive for their appointment instead of handing them a bunch of paper forms when they arrive.
Dental EMR, a cloud-based dental endodontic practice management software, for example, makes this pre-appointment exchange of information easy and easy to be completed before appointment day. Giving patients simple — and secure — access to forms and information before they arrive means one less thing for them to worry about on appointment day and keeps nerves and stress at bay.
For busy front office staff, it also means one less thing to juggle when a new patient arrives and less time the patient has to wait before their appointment begins, saving both time and ultimately money. Also since electronic new patient paperwork is submitted online and fully integrated within Dental EMR, office staff are not required to manually enter information, reducing transcription error and liability.
Likewise, implementing a system that allows referring dentists to have all they need to provide referrals directly from a secure portal on the web, like Dental EMR’s, reduces the pre-appointment back-and-forth between referrer and your office, saving time for all involved. You see, by granting you the ability to provide your referring dentists with richer information related to the care you provided via the Dental EMR referrals portal, multiple reports, secure bi-directional images and files, Dental EMR enables you to stand out and gives your referring dentist more reasons to refer to you than others.
Easier Scheduling and Reminders
An ineffective scheduling system is a common source of stress in endodontic offices. Having a subpar system in place, though, ultimately costs time and money and increases staffer stress and burnout. This is compounded when the system does not easily integrate with an efficient means to provide pre-appointment reminders to patients, a must to keep your daily schedule on track.
Given the fact that missed appointments can easily cost a practice thousands of dollars a year, investing in an up-to-date management system like Dental EMR is an easy and cost-effective means to help your front end staff spend less time behind their computers scheduling and more time interacting with your patients. For instance through Dental EMR’s appointment reminder feature, even if it helps you prevent 3 Root Canal No-Shows per month at an average of $1000.00 per visit, your endodontic office could potentially save $3000/month or $36,000 saved per year.
“Dental EMR is an easy and cost-effective means to help your front end staff spend less time behind their computers scheduling and more time interacting with your patients”
While identifying pain points and implementing an office management system will no doubt improve the workflow and work lives of your front desk staff, taming the mundane will ultimately free your front desk staffers from administrative staff and allow them to focus on the well-being and care of your patients and referring dentists.
This means a better experience for patients, better feedback from the patient to the referring dentists, more word of mouth referrals and referring dentists that are willing to work with your team again and again.
In other words, taking the time to focus on listening to your front desk staff and finding solutions for the pain points is ultimately an investment not only in your staff but for your entire practice, and one that will ultimately pay dividends with improved customer care, rockstar front staffers and a practice that is not only thriving but growing.
Is Your Endodontic Practice Website Working for You?
If your endodontic practice is still using your website as merely a digital business card or brochure, then your practice is missing out.
A modern website is capable of far more than being a passive placeholder on the web. Instead, using the right tools, a website can help bring in referrals, increase patient satisfaction and increase revenue for your practice all while saving time and money in the process.
It all starts with good, responsive design.
Why you should be using responsive design
While adding interactive features can help you stand out in a crowd and ultimately helps generate revenue and referrals, building a website that works for you and your patients starts with a good design that puts user needs first. In today’s day and age, that means a site that is responsive and easily works on all devices.
There was a time not so long ago that many businesses often had two versions of their site. There was one version for mobile usage and a second one meant primarily for use on larger screens such as desktops. Yet, while that setup meant users could easily interact with the information regardless of screen size, it also meant that there were two sites to maintain and keep updated. While that may not seem like a big deal, the time and costs of maintaining a mobile and desktop version of your online presence easily added up, taking time and money away from performing essential tasks.
Maintaining separate mobile and desktop version instead of a single, responsive design also meant potentially losing out traffic for the fastest growing segment of web users: those who will experience your site using a mobile device.
In just the past few years, the explosion of mobile devices has changed the way most people interact with a webpage. In 2016, mobile use surpassed desktop use for the first time. As of June 2019 according to internet monitoring firm StatCounter, over 50 percent of all site visits came from mobile.
Endodontics Mobile Website Responsive Design
With so many users — and potential patients — using mobile devices, it is now more important than ever to focus on a streamlined, responsive experience that allows users to navigate your site and features regardless of screen size. On smaller screens, that means text that is easily seen and does not require horizontal scrolling to be read. It also means finger-friendly buttons that are sized to be easily pushed on touch screens. On larger designs, it means designing so that the page looks good even in higher resolution. For all screen sizes, responsive design means offering up the same content in a way that is optimized for various screen-size use.
Of course, all good web design comes at a cost. Yet, transitioning to a responsive design does not have to be painful. DentalEMR partners with WebBlox, a full-service web design and marketing agency that helps build responsive sites for endodontic practices that can easily be optimized with features that work for you and fit your budget.
It is also an investment that is likely to pay off and give you an edge over your competition.
With the move to heavier mobile usage, responsive design is now Google’s preferred mobile SEO implementation, meaning that moving to responsive design can help get your website seen in search results. Added to the lower costs of maintenance and the ability to provide a feature-rich service on all devices, transitioning to a responsive design will pay dividends in saved time, cost and increased traffic that will benefit your practice and help make it grow.
Making features work for your practice
Responsive design is an important way to build a mobile-friendly user experience that drives traffic to your site. Yet, what will win over referring dentists and patients is a feature-rich site and help them get things done simply, efficiently in a secure web-based platform. That is where DentalEMR can help your practice shine, making it simple to streamline referrals, provide patient paperwork and get patients into your office on a timely basis.
Endodontic Website Design by DentalEMR
Yet, it all starts with something that is so simple yet often overlooked. In order to get new patients into your office, they have to be able to find you first.
If you have ever visited a website only to go searching for an office’s location or contact information, you know how frustrating it can be. Yet for potential patients and referring dentists, the inability to readily find your physical location or phone number could potentially be a deal breaker that could cost you thousands a year in lost income.
Thankfully, the solution to this is simple. Feature your contact information prominently on the site, easily accessible and not hidden behind any log-ins or walls. It is also good practice to make it as simple as possible for your patients to reach your physical location. Consider a photo of the front of your building for easy recognition, the use of Google Maps for customized directions from their location and a section to include important details for their arrival such as parking information and any access information they need to know.
In short, the easier it is for patients to find you, the more likely they are to follow through, book an appointment and show up, meaning more patients and ultimately more revenue for you.
New Patient Paperwork- Online and Done
Shuffling pre-appointment paperwork can be a hassle. It can also cost you time and money. With even 15 minutes of paperwork time lost on 3 patients a day, that amounts to 15 hours of lost time per month which can easily equate to $18,000 of lost revenue a year for your practice. For the patients, it also amounts to more lengthy appointment times and pre-appointment anxiety.
For DentalEMR users, however, the solution is simple. Using DentalEMR’s electronic registration, your patients can use your website to fill out the forms before they arrive and in the comfort of their home, making check-in on appointment day simpler and freeing up time for all involved.
Referrals are essential for a successful endodontic practice. That is why having a streamlined and simple referral portal can help build and improve relationships with existing dentists.
With DentalEMR, communication with the referring dentist is simple right from your webpage. The referrer can simply submit a patient’s information along with x-rays, providing the endodontist with all the information needed to provide for the patient’s care. Then, after the appointment is over, the endodontist can provide information about treatment back to the referring dentist, providing an easy flow of information that eliminates the need for time-consuming email exchanges.
The result is less time wasted and more referrals, easily amounting to $12,000 a year with just one new referral each month. If 5 new patients make appointments each month, that quickly grows to $60,000 simply by putting your website to work for you.
Building a successful endodontic practice is hard enough. Don’t lose out on important revenue by having an outdated website. In 2019 and beyond, it is no longer enough to have a static ‘business card’ on the web for your endodontic practice. Investing in a modern, responsive website that works for you will easily pay back dividends in increased revenue, more referrals and less wasted time.
Cloud software has mostly replaced in-office servers, and for good reason. Cloud software eliminates a whole spectrum of hidden costs and risks associated with owning your own server. And while many assume the cloud is less secure than a server protected by their own lock and key, they forget that a server on an office network connected to an Internet connection is also on the cloud! Not only are the security measures used by professional cloud providers far superior to those available to a typical small business, specialized cloud providers also add strict compliance controls for standards like HIPAA. When purchasing or upgrading your endodontic practice management software, consider:
Would I rather:
Pay for endodontic practice management software server and client licenses, pay for server management software, pay for server and backup hardware, pay for backup power equipment, pay for HIPAA-qualified IT consultants and services to monitor and maintain my servers, pay for server software license upgrades every few years, pay to upgrade my server hardware every few years, pay for all this again when opening a new location, and manage a variety of byzantine HIPAA server security procedures myself– and all the while hope the server in my office will not be stolen, damaged, improperly handled, or crash — or
Pay for a cloud-based endodontic practice management solution and leave the rest to the experts?
Merideth speaks a bit more about the benefits the cloud can provide practices in her latest video:
Can you believe it’s been another year already? Dental EMR will be at the AAE 2018 Annual Conference in Denver, CO this year in booth 200. Stop by and tell us about the challenges and aspirations you have for your practice and join us in pioneering patient-centric dental practice management. Go from just managing to thriving.
Are you interested in finding out how you can take your Endodontic dental practice to the next level with “Dental EMR” with our practice management software and solutions? Our team will be ready to assist at the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) hosted in New Orleans from April 26-29. Come say hello to us at Booth #350!!!
How secure is your Endodontic practice? DentalEMR’s activity logs help you ensure your dental practice is compliant while giving you peace of mind. We’re constantly searching for ways to bring value to your dental practice and security is paramount.
Here’s a good article which covers why user access log is required and important for any dental practice.
Today we released a new feature which enables you to designate and track the patient’s appointment status for your endodontic dental practice.
Your dental office team can now be aligned in tracking where your dental patient are for before and after their appointment, in real-time.
Don’t forget that our system also sends out email reminders to the patients for their endodontic appointments so that when they confirm, “Dental EMR” will automatically show you they’ve confirmed their appointment: saves your office time in calling them and helps minimize no-shows which means more revenue for your endodontic dental practice.